Fusion recipes and tahini with everything: how Molly Yeh, Food Network chef, mined her Chinese and Jewish heritage for some memorable pandemic mash-ups
- Food Network star Molly Yeh took refuge in food during quarantine, baking bread and coming up with recipes such as kale matzo pizza or bacon and egg drop soup
- The food blogger’s older cake recipes became popular again – think carrot cake with tahini caramel frosting, and mini pumpkin loaf cakes with cream cheese glaze
Somewhere between testing beet and carrot juice, blueberries and mint in search of the precise hues for a four-tiered rainbow cake celebrating her daughter’s first birthday in spring 2020, Food Network star Molly Yeh was forced by Covid-19’s gathering storm clouds to abruptly cancel the party she’d spent six months planning.
The food blogger and author of Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm: A Cookbook had already sketched the tablescape, sent hand-drawn invitations incorporating the vegetable theme and crafted cute marzipan carrots as cake toppers.
Since then, the 32-year-old Yeh has balanced the daily frustrations and isolation of quarantine life with the many joyful firsts of her toddler, Bernie. The constant that has held it together is food, or in Yeh’s case, tahini. She’s fond of incorporating her favourite ingredient in original recipes that fuse her Chinese and Jewish heritage.
The young family never went to a restaurant and rarely ordered takeaway, cooking from scratch and finding delight in Bernie’s milestones, despite monotonous routines and seemingly endless household chores.
Yeh, the star of Food Network’s Girl Meets Farm show, has been a bright spot in a gloomy year for many viewers, with her infectious smile, recipe mash-ups (think harissa honey labne – a yogurt thicker than Greek – hummus dumplings, kale matzo pizza, and bacon and egg drop soup), and endearing habit of liberally dousing desserts with home-made hundreds and thousands or marzipan.
Pretzel challah (a Jewish egg bread) was among the first recipes that gained traction on her blog, My Name is Yeh. And she’s delighted to report that her daughter’s art canvas of choice is painting egg wash on a braided loaf.
Yeh has experienced a rough pandemic year full of pitfalls and pivots like the rest of us. She shacked up with her in-laws while overseeing a massive home renovation, and started work on a new cookbook, Where The Eggs Are, featuring easier, go-to weekday meals.
While these recipes are less fussy, Yeh has never shied away from celebratory and sometimes labour-intensive dishes. She grew up in the kitchen with her mother, making everything from scratch, finding comfort in the rituals and routines – perfect preparation for pandemic life.
Early in 2020, as Americans baked their way through the uncertainty, Yeh’s older cake recipes became popular again, including carrot cake with hawaij (a Middle Eastern spice) and tahini caramel frosting; chocolate cake with halva (a Middle Eastern fudge-like confection) filling and tahini frosting; and mini pumpkin loaf cakes with cream cheese glaze and candied bacon.
The new mum admits she struggled when she realised she’s not the fun parent. “It’s become clear that Nick is the fun one, dancing and singing and spinning her up in the air,” she says.
But food has fixed that too.
“I get to see Bernie’s face when she eats my chicken noodle soup, and I get to fill the house with the smell of mac and cheese when she wakes up from her nap,” she says.
One of her favourite moments on her show was cooking chicken pot stickers, scallion pancakes with maple syrup slaw and, of course, a sprinkle cake, before performing a Bach invention with the man she calls her biggest musical inspiration.
“It’s that same creative, special, joyous feeling that I get making cake and making food for other people that I get from playing music for people that I love,” said Yeh. “If life can be a lot of those moments strung together, that’s a life I want to live.”